The use of children as suicide bombers by the militant group Boko Haram has surged in 2017, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.
In the countries fighting Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region — Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad — 27 children have been used in suicide attacks by the armed group in the first three months of the year, UNICEF said in a report and statement.
There were nine cases in the same period last year, and 30 children used for bombings in all of 2016, it said. Most were girls.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) April 12, 2017
The Boko Haram insurgency is now in its eighth year with little sign of ending, having claimed over 20,000 lives.
Its child kidnappings gained global notoriety after the abduction of more than 200 girls from the town of Chibok in Nigeria's northeast in 2014.
Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands, often raping them, forcing them to either become suicide bombers, help the militants or marry fighters, UNICEF said.
TRT World's Fidelis Mbah tells us more.
Victims, not perpetrators
"These children are victims, not perpetrators," said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF's regional director for West and Central Africa.
Forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible.
One 16-year-old girl from Chad lost her legs after being drugged and forced by Boko Haram to take part in an attempted suicide attack on a crowded market, according to UNICEF's report.
Though the girl survived, her family initially rejected her "out of fear of stigma."
Children who escape Boko Haram are often held in custody by authorities or ostracised by their communities and families.
Children make up 1.3 million of the 2.3 million people displaced by the conflict.
Click here to read the full report.